This world is a wondrous place. Lidice and I connected on Facebook! She had taken a photo expedition trip as a model with The Boudoir Divas (y’all know how much I love and adore those amazing women), and reached out to me after her experience! We have connected over our love of travel, and passion for using the lessons we’ve learned in life as motivation to connect with others. I am inspired by her story, and I think you will be, too! -S
My experiences traveling are one and the same with basically all that my life is in a nutshell.
The first time I flew on an airplane by myself I was 9 and it was a very definitive trip. It was the first and last time for almost a decade that I was to take a flight anywhere. After that, my parents joined me a few months later, and we overstayed our visas making us “illegal” and “law breakers.”
I think there’s something so powerful about labels. There’s this huge part of me that automatically goes, “Oh! I’m what now? Alright, I’m going to give you just that.” Recently I have finally been challenging this reactive way of thinking because it hasn’t served me well over the years.
I was always trying to fit people’s expectations of me, good or bad, but mostly bad because that’s easier. I don’t like to judge others or talk about others because I don’t know the things they’ve been labeled as and have gone on believing that they are. So when I was 9, there it was — travel that changed everything about my life.
Let’s fast forward to when I turned 18, and by then I was a legal resident of the U.S., I had my “green card” and could finally travel. When I graduated high school, my aunt got me a ticket to France, with her miles, as a graduation present. It was just me, the backpack on my shoulders, and my “life savings” for six weeks in France!
The thing was, no one ever taught me how to plan a trip, and I was a senior in high school — I didn’t take help from anyone! It probably would’ve made for good online content, but it was back before the gadgets we have now existed. Again, it was a trip that changed me and defined how I experienced life for many years to come.
In France, I quickly learned that I didn’t have a clue, and that I needed to ask for help. I learned to face the fear of going up to a stranger and starting a conversation. I learned that wine, tobacco, and sex go a long way when you’re bartering and surviving ANYWHERE, and at 18, traveling solo, I definitely got taken advantage of. I was still learning about how to live in my own skin, and the fucked up part was that those experiences lay the foundation for how I took care of myself for years to come. It showed up in the way that I dealt with the challenges of basic survival (eating, finding shelter, and later paying bills, etc.) and the way I handled myself in relationships with men.
Fast forwarding a little bit, I have moved all over [Tennessee, Illinois, Wisconsin, California, and Kentucky] and every single one of those places are a part of me; who I was, and who I’m becoming. There’s a lot of pain in it too, either because my experiences in those places were tough, complicated, and scary, or because I’ve had to leave people behind and shed parts of me. It’s so easy to get caught up in the memories, and the “what if” and “could’ve been.”
The optimist in me always looks for the positive things, and it creates a feeling of yearning in my heart. But lately, I’ve been working really hard on being truly present, and counting my blessings…right here, right now. This past year I had a lot of things fall apart and it crushed me but the turning point was so magical and just so right.
I went to the Riviera Maya as part of an Adventuress trip organized by The Boudoir Divas. There was something about being around all these amazing women, in this sublime corner of the world, that made everything click. We are all, singularly and collectively, always in a state of entropy. I find that the most beautiful places and the most beautiful humans are a little off, a little broken, a little dirty. On this trip, I realized that growing up hearing “Bonita, chula, preciosa,” fucked me up maybe even more than getting teased when I was a kid. It’s hard to express to others how damaging it can be regardless of it being a good thing or a thing that maybe others aspire to be. It’s still a judgment and a label that I thought I had to fulfill so at some point, I started to only see myself as just a “pretty lil’ thang.”
I have a newfound appreciation for the stuff that’s not skin deep, in general, but most importantly in myself. Owning my mistakes, the terrible decisions I’ve made, and my brokenness have empowered me to be brave, authentic, and unapologetically human.
So… what can I say to you, fellow adventurer? Life’s a trip!
Like any good trip, you’re going to lose some things along the way, and you’re definitely going to have to leave some things behind. You won’t be able to carry all that luggage and truly embrace freedom. You might wander or get lost, and when you find your way again you might feel homesick, or you might find that you want to stay a little longer. Whatever that journey looks like for you, I hope your decisions are fueled by curiosity and not fear. I hope that anytime you take a look down from the mountaintop, you take in the view — the perspective is always incredible with a little distance.
Don’t worry, if you don’t quite know where you’re headed, much less how to get there. I promise you’ll be okay. You don’t have to make anything happen, you don’t have to wear yourself out. All you have to do is learn to listen to yourself, to love yourself wholly, and to cultivate that burning flame inside your soul — because that’s what we call joy.
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